Welcome to the Dragons’ lair!

Because Climate Change is finally getting the attention it deserves, after waiting since 1972, we have decided to open a new category where we welcome a discussion. Please e mail us or add to the comment section that follows each post. We will post all comments that are reasonable – not just those that agree with our opinion.
Now please click on the CLIMATE CHANGE category to see the posts. Help us all by offering solutions that combine to solve the problem.

We are four dragons who share our words, thoughts and work here on our blog – we also welcome anyone else to share their stories, poems, articles, reviews… and anything else!
Meet our bloggers

Here you will find our posts in various categories, and although most of these are what you might expect, here, in brief, is what you can find:

– writing – we are writers, that’s what we do, but we have separated our posts into categories. Please click on one of the links below or choose a category from the alphabetical list to the left

.

We also share posts on specific subjects:

Our writers post whole stories – which will or already have been published:

As well as sharing our writing, we write about writing, language, we review different arts, and the progress we are making on our own writing projects:

…and then there are the odds and ends…

You can find details about our books on our Dragon Bookshop page.

DON’T FORGET OUR NEW FAVOURITES PAGES! You can find them on the home page.

73 blogs…2 writers…1 challenge… Here you will find a featured book. It may be a launch of a new book we have written or a review of one of our favourites that we have written previously.

 

Brimdraca / Lois        –     Lois

Eorodraca / Richard  –    Richard

June review / July update

Welcome to our June review, which actually is more of a July update.

We dragons have faced several personal challenges recently, which has severely affected our output, however we hope that soon we will be writing and sharing regularly, but will keep you updated.

So, a few stats: in June we received 334 views and 278 lovely visitors from 22 different countries.  As ever, it is really great and much appreciated, thank you very much to you all across the world! To all our readers, world-wide, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome to all our new friends.

The blog

Whatever the restrictions, we can still roam in our imaginations and we welcome any contributions to our blog, especially now, from anyone who would like to write articles, stories or poems about anything! We love to share others writing of all sorts! Please send us any stories, poems, articles which we can share here – copyrighted to you and with full credits to you and links to your places!

News

Lois would like to remind you that al her books are now available as paperbacks, as well as eBooks. She has been very busy with her next and as yet untitled Radwinter story, number eight in the series.

Lois has also set herself a new challenge, which appears on her own blog, https://loiselsden.com/2021/05/01/100/ . On the occasion of the late Captain Sir Tom Moore’s birthday, a hundred day challenge was announced. Ordinary folk were challenged to make/complete/do a hundred of a thing and be sponsored or donate to the Captain Tom Foundation. Lois set herself the challenge to write one hundred one hundred word blogs over 100 days. She is now on Day 64 and has written nearly six and a half thousand words on all sorts of topics, including family, walking the dog and hanging out the washing (she’s strangely taken with writing about this domestic task, and has also written a dozen pomes on it!)

John, Lois and Richard belong to a writing group who are now pulling together stories, poems and other pieces to make a collection for an anthology. Early days, but we will bring you news and more details as it becomes available. The working title is ‘Pendemic: 5 writers in lockdown’.

Dragon publications

All our published work is available on Amazon, search for Gillian Peall, John Watts, Richard Kefford, and Lois Elsden.

Just a reminder that our friend historian and blogger, Andrew Simpson,  is writing some very interesting articles not only addressing the difficulties of our times, but how ordinary people, just like us, coped in the past. You can find his blog https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/ ; his published books are available on Amazon.

A further reminder, our friend Ann Bancroft also has a book available on Amazon, an account of her spiritual journey.

Until next month, au revoir and many thanks once again to all our viewers/readers!

Very belated, but here is our May review

Welcome to our May and apologies for its late arrival. It’s nearly fifteen months since our world and our lives changed so dramatically, and for many so disastrously. Here in the UK we are the battle is ongoing, although there’s positive news too as science fights back. We hope wherever you live progress is also being made. However, we aren’t forgetting those places where the situation is serious and challenging, and we send our thoughts and hopes for positive news from those stricken places.

We writing has been a support to you, and we hope that you, your family and friends are safe and well, and offer our sincere thoughts to any of you who have been affected in any way whatsoever.

First of all…

We dragons have faced several personal challenges recently, which has affected our output, however we hope that soon we will be writing and sharing regularly, but will keep you updated.

So, a few stats: in April we received 498 views and 327 lovely visitors from 16 different countries.  As ever, it is really great and much appreciated, thank you very much to you all across the world! To all our readers, world-wide, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome to all our new friends.

The blog

Whatever the restrictions, we can still roam in our imaginations and we welcome any contributions to our blog, especially now, from anyone who would like to write articles, stories or poems about anything! We love to share others writing of all sorts! Please send us any stories, poems, articles which we can share here – copyrighted to you and with full credits to you and links to your places!

News

Lois’s news:

Lois has been busy with her next and as yet untitled Radwinter story, number eight in the series. She has also set herself a new challenge, which appears on her own blog, https://loiselsden.com/2021/05/01/100/ . On the occasion of the late Captain Sir Tom Moore’s birthday, a hundred day challenge has been announced. Ordinary folk have been challenged to do a hundred of a thing over a hundred days, and to be sponsored or donate to the Captain Tom Foundation. Lois is now on Day 49 and has written a century of words on all sorts of topics, including swimming, going to the pub, meeting friends and of course writing!

Other dragon news:

John, Lois and Richard belong to a writing group who are now pulling together stories, poems and other pieces to make a collection for an anthology. Early days, but we will bring you news and more details as it becomes available. The working title is Pendemic: 5 writers in lockdown.

Dragon publications

All our published work is available on Amazon, search for Gillian Peall, John Watts, Richard Kefford, and Lois Elsden.

Just a reminder that our friend historian and blogger, Andrew Simpson, who shares many of the stories from his own blog, is writing some very interesting articles not only addressing the difficulties of our times, but how ordinary people, just like us, coped in the past. You can find his blog https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/ ; his published books are available on Amazon.

A further reminder, our friend Ann Bancroft also has a book available on Amazon, an account of her spiritual journey.

Until the end of next month, au revoir! Keep following our blog!!

What I missed during lockdown

I missed our children. I missed their daily news. Just a telephone summary had to do.

I missed our grandchildren who will see us as part strangers from the ‘phone after a year. 

We will get them to know us again, we will not let them unknow us.

I miss the year of my life that I haven’t properly lived, never to come back.

I miss our friends and family that slipped away from us without the chance to honour them with a last respectful goodbye.

I missed the quiet enjoyment of life – now always filled with news of variants, threats of further restrictions.

I missed the meeting up of different groups, creative writing , geology and…I missed the reading aloud of our own writing, face to face with a chunky cup of strong coffee. I missed the field trips exploring geology with like minded people in the quiet countryside. I missed the after talk in the pub about the unknowableness of deep time.

Most of all I missed the comfort and knowledge of the predictability of continuity, space,  time and familial environment, what is now called Solastalgia, that weighs heavily on our minds.

© Richard Kefford 2021

Shakespeare’s spiel chequer ( Rev III )

Old Bill was hunched over his computer.

’ What sort of computer is it?’ asked Rodney. 

‘It’s a Dell, boy,’ answered Bill gruffly as he struggled to finish writing his new play. 

‘Is it working well? asked Rodney, who was itching to get his hands on it so that he could see how good it was. 

‘It’s not three bad,’ said Bill. ‘It has a couple of problems in that the RAM is too small – it was born prematurely and got Baaaahed and me Bard from the tavern. The floppy disc drive has a major problem because plastic hasn’t been invented yet so I have had to make do with a wooden disc to store all my scripts. This is a little slow and it works OK, but when I put them in my store, they get damaged by woodworm, which doesn’t improve the spelling.

‘Why don’t you pop down the road to PC World and see if they have a new one on special offer?’ 

‘I’ve tried that but they are very difficult to talk to as they are a fully woke organisation.  They insisted on calling my computer a He instead of an It and said that if they upgraded It/He  then they would have to refer to He as a They. They also  wanted to flog me an apple instead of a computer and my mate Isaac says that they keep dropping off the tree. I asked about the new operating system but they said that was expensive because of the poxy new window tax.’ 

‘I’d have one of those new apples, they’ve got a new core processor that runs really fast. 

‘Well, if you’re so clever, why don’t you have a go at fixing the spell chequer on this thing?’ 

‘Why, what’s wrong with it?’ 

‘As things are a bit slow in the playwriting business, I’ve been taking commissions from shops to write some adverts for them. Look at this one; I tried to write a slogan for a camping shop to stick in the window to advertise their winter sale. It came up with the strap line,”Now is the winter of our discontent.” 

‘What’s wrong with that?’ asked Rodney. 

‘I wrote; “Now is the winter of our discount tents.” How can you work with a machine that messes up all your writing?’ asked an exasperated Bill. ‘I had to give up on that one as the shop keeper told me that someone else had already come up with the same line. “Who was that?” I asked.‘

It was a guy who you might know, Christopher Marlowe?’

‘Oh yes, alas poor Chris – I knew him well.’

‘So then I had to try and think up a suitable replacement line. I did this by quickly canvassing the people around the town but I was told that you cannot run through a camp site, you have to use the passed tents.’

‘I also had a commission from a shopkeeper who sold winter clothing, I wrote; “Many are cold but a few are frozen”. The computer said, “Many are called but few are chosen”. I ask you, what does that mean?’ 

‘I tell you what,’ offered Rodney. ‘Let me have the computer for about 12 hours and I’ll check it over, upgrade the RAM, install a new hard drive and upgrade the operating system to Windows 007. Then you should see big difference in performance. I can get the upgrades cheap at ITEA, as long as I assemble them myself.’ 

‘OK,’ said Bill, ‘I don’t understand what you are wittering on about but I’m willing to give it a go if you think it will help, but will it sort out the spell chequer?’ 

‘Should do,’ said lying Rodney. ‘I’ll shut it down and take it back to my workshop in Silicon Alley.’ 

‘OK,’ said Bill. I’ll see you back here tomorrow with my “good as new computer.” Thanks Rodney.’ 

They had a quick high three and then Rodney was off.  Bill spent the evening laboriously quill writing out the script for his latest advert for a shopkeeper in Venice who sold organic bailers for dinghies. “Just one corn…” he hadn’t got very far. He was sure he had script writer’s block. He segued into thinking about a song about angling. He enjoyed fishing. “I’ve been fishing for seal but I’ve just caught an eel – it’s a moray.” 

He dreamily thought back to the time when he was running his farming advice programme on Thy Tube. He was proud of his script writing then. He wrote a piece about pig farming, called Hamlet. It went down very well, especially after he cured the pigs and called on Francis Bacon to try it. His vegetable growing advice column was widely said to be the best of it’s time. He was especially proud of his advice “ To thine own self beetroot.” It was getting dark, well, it was the winter’s tail, so he blew out the candle, put his quill back on the goose and laid his head down for the night – hoping for dreams of a new play. 

***** 

The sun was lighting up his studio, the lark was pottering around the kitchen so he thought he had better get up with it. He sipped his jug of ale – coffee hadn’t bean invented yet. He had dreamed of a new play, a romance between two young lovers, Alfa Romero and Juilietta Bugati. 

He had not slept well as he had been worrying about any new business he might get.

While he was waiting for Rodney to turn up with his rejuvenated computer, he whiled away the time by writing the play in his head. He had just got to a balcony scene where Miss Bugati was wondering where Mr Romero was, when Rodney rushed in.

‘Hey, my Lord, I…’ 

‘Wait’, said Bill.’ Rodney was cut off in mid declaration. ’I’ve just got a new client who wants to promote his creamed rice. He sent me a P Mail overnight. The poor pigeon was exhausted after doing a double shift, so I fed him some pumpkin seeds and then let him go. I had to show him the way home on a map as his GPS thingy wasn’t working too well, so he probably had to wing it. 

I suggested to my new client that I write a sonnet rather than just a simple strap line.’

‘Huh?’ exclaimed a bemused Rodders

‘See what you think,’ said Will I Am. ‘This is what I wrote.’

‘Shall I compare thee to a can of rice?
Round of body but top and base conflate:
Financial storms inflate the bogof price,
Anne Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hard the might of Tesco strike,
And oft his gold ramps up the price
as every fair trade cost from far oft places spike:
By chance or corporate plans change to gneiss.

But thy internal dessert shall not decay,
Nor lose possession of that fair trade thou must,
Nor shall Death erode and change day to day
When time advances, to sell by or change to rust.

So long as men can breathe, or palate can taste
So long lives this, not set to fall to waste.

“Sounds good to me, agreed Rodney, who was partial to a dollop or three of Ambrosia.

‘Look at what the stupid thing came up with.’ ‘Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day? How would I ever make that into a sonnet?

‘Dunno,’ agreed a baffled Rodney.

‘Is that my computer?’ demanded Bill.
‘Indeed my lord,’ said Rodney eager to please, and get paid. ‘Demonstrate then,’ demanded Bill. 

The computer was set carefully on the table, plugged into the wall paraffin socket and switched on. Rodney kicked it as he knew that computers had to be booted. Eventually it woke up and asked for a password. ‘What is your password my lord? asked Rodney deferentially – he knew what the answer would be… 

…After waiting on the phone for 37 minutes listening to “hey, Nonny no” many times, they eventually heard a human voice. ‘Hello Microsoft help desk, your call is very important to us so we will be recording this call for training purposes. How may I be of service to you this fine, sunny morning?’ 

‘Why is Microsoft training porpoises?’ asked a curious Rodney.

‘Hold thy tongue, scurvy companion’ hissed Bill ‘I’ve forgotten my password and I need a new one.’ 

‘No problem,’ said the cheery voice, ‘ just log on to our web site and follow the instructions.’ 

‘How do I log on when my computer won’t work without a password?’ asked Bill in a dangerously reasonable voice. 

‘That’s what we call the windows paradox. When you most need your computer, you have no way of making it work… except by giving Microsoft a shed load of shekels, err, that’s techy slang for money, by the way.’ 

‘How much,’ asked Bill through clenched teeth. 

‘Well it roughly equates to a pound of flesh, we don’t accept any jots of blood or debit cards of course.’ 

‘You can take as much of Rodney’s flesh as you like it,’ he said, ‘Just make sure you take it measure for measure.’ 

‘I’m still here you know’ said an aggrieved Rodney. 

‘Look upon it as a super fast diet plan,’ suggested Bill. 

***** 

The jovial banter was ended, the bill had been paid by a reluctant Bill and an even more reluctant Rodney. The computer was now working, windows were open, the birds were singing so Bill asked the Word program to open. 

‘OK’, it squeaked, and opened on its new hinges. Oh the wonder of it! 

‘Why don’t you type in your latest slogan and see what it does,’ suggested a lean, bandaged Rodney. 

Bill did so.
‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo.’
‘Merde,’ said Bill – he was proud of being a polyglot. ‘ That’s not right, it should be: “Alfa Romero, Alfa Romero, what art there is in an Alfa Romero.”  ‘I’ll be a laughing stock in all the car showrooms across Italy. I’ll never get a play on stage anywhere on the globe now. 

‘Well, that’s predictive text for you,’ giggled Rodney. ‘ Do you think I’ll get my pound of flesh back?’

‘I predict not,’ said Bill.

© Richard Kefford 2021

Anthology

Exciting news from the Somerset Dragons, they are at present editing an anthology in which they feature as well as other members of their writing group. It’s title is yet to be decided, but it will probably be something along the lines of ‘Pendemic: five writers in lockdown‘, but we will bring you news as soon as we have it. Meanwhile, Lois has news on a similar theme:

Lois writes: I have an exciting an announcement! As you know I belong to a couple of writing groups, and one of them, based in Weston and called Writers in Stone (subtitled The Kick up the A*** Writing Group) has just published their second anthology! You may have read some of my contributions which I have shared here, but there are much better writers and poets than I am who have contributed to it.

Here is the blurb:

The long awaited second anthology by the Writers in Stone, Cuckoo is a collection of ten more themes from the writers’ monthly meetings in The Bay café in Weston-super-Mare. Subjects as diverse as Bicycle, Jealousy, Banging and, of course, Cuckoo, provide the inspiration for stories, poems and reflections on love, nature, childhood, ageing, fantasy, mystery and memory. Each theme is approached differently by all the writers, providing a breadth of humour, triumph, pathos and heartbreak that never ceases to amaze and delight.

What amazes me in our group is that a simple title – such as ‘Cuckoo’ can elicit such a varied response, funny stories, sad tales, dark mysteries, poems, pieces of writing in many styles. The writers themselves vary their work so no-one could be described in just one way, from tragedy to comedy, from poetic to gritty, it really feels like an honour to be in their company.

Here is my story for ‘Cuckoo’ which is very loosely based on true events!

Cuckoo

I was thinking of not very much as the headmaster droned on… It was warm in the hall as assembly wasted more precious moments of my life… didn’t I, didn’t we all, all the boys and masters have so much better things to do? I played music in my head to get through… Man of Mystery… the Shadows… better without the so-called heart throb Cliff… Tony Meehan… crikey… what a drummer… I would have patted out the rhythm on my legs except I was pressed hard between the others…
I was suddenly aware of a persistent whisper…
“Hey, hey Stanhope! Stanhope… hey!” I tried to see who was hissing at me, being the tallest not just in the year any more but in the upper school I could survey the rows of Brylcremed hair and bored faces. I looked over my other shoulder and saw Terrance, a boy I didn’t know, looking at me urgently. He whispered something which I didn’t catch, but the boys next to him seemed interested.
“What?” I whispered back and just as he was answering there was a bellow from the stage.
“Stanhope! See me after assembly, my room!”
Blast and damn, that would mean a lecture and probably lines, not detention, please not detention! I wanted to get into town to Hall’s record shop…
What did blasted Terrance want? I thought he’d whispered something about a group…

I hung around in the playground… I’d escaped detention and lines but had to tolerate the deputy head rabbiting on about silence in assembly, setting standards, discipline, the usual old tripe. Now I was waiting for Terrance.
He came out at a trot… he was the boy in a rugby school who dribbled a tennis ball round the playground playing solitary football. His hair slicked back, unmoving whatever he or the wind did, sculpted into something vaguely resembling Elvis’s style. His family were the local auctioneer’s – Terrance’s, not Elvis of course! – he had a brother… that was all I knew about him, football, Brylcreme, brother and auction house…
“Wotcha!” he greeted me with a smooth smile as if we knew each other. “Someone said you’re a drummer?”
I was hooked… I’d been described as someone who played the drums, as Harold’s boy who accompanied his dad in the pubs of the area, Harold on the piano, his boy on a high hat, snare and bass… but a drummer, you’re a drummer!

I’d gone along to Terrance’s house that evening… why his group needed a drummer was evident when I saw the split head of the former drummer’s snare… left too near the electric fire, the calf-skin had exploded in the night nearly giving Terrance heart failure. So in need of a new drummer, I’d been hissed at in assembly.
We were the Four Tones, David Terrance, me, Vic the butcher’s apprentice – on a good day in the shop he came to rehearsal’s stinking like an abattoir, and his mate Martin. Vic was bow legged, Martin knock-kneed, walking behind them, in their drainpipe trousers they spelt OX. Vic looked good, the girls loved him, but he couldn’t sing, and the end came for Martin when his guitar, strung with strings for a bass exploded on stage, the tension too much for the poor old thing…
Somehow we acquired Julian, a steady, committed and, more to the point, punctual bass player, and Pete who could have been quite good, if it hadn’t been for his girlfriend resenting the rehearsals… The Four Tones became the Easthopers – a name rapidly abandoned when a rival group called us the No-Hopers. It wasn’t until Terrance hooked a big fish in our parochial music pond… the legendary Gary Cook that we turned from a bunch of fourth years playing for church youth clubs, to a Group, with a capital G. We began to get gigs at working men’s clubs, in pubs, available, as someone said, for weddings, funerals and bar-mitzvahs!
Gary was slim lad with a powerful personality, just what we needed. He had a fearsome reputation with the ladies, not just girls our age, but women of eighteen and even nineteen! He was remarkable in many ways, perhaps the most obvious was that he was able to style his hair with Brylcreme so from the front he appeared not to be wearing his school-cap. His luxuriant locks (as he called them) were sculpted round the navy and pale blue cap, holding it firmly in place without hair clips (as was rumoured by enemies)
He also had not just a voice, but the voice we needed, Elvis, Cliff, Bobbies D., V, and G, Genes V., P., and A… you name it Gary nailed it! He was a powerful personality, but so was David Terrance, in a quieter but maybe more determined way… Dave however, knew which battles to fight so when it came to the name of the band he gave way gracefully.
We had been the Four Inches (each or between you?) the Earwigs, the Fivetones, and then the Cooks. We lasted a while as The Cooks, until once again rivals kept changing the posters advertising our gigs to The Cocks… We tried The Cookies, but the American influence was waning, and so almost effortlessly, and almost presciently, abandoning the The, we became Cuckoo…

Here is a link to our latest anthology:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cuckoo-Anthology-Group-Anthologies-Book-ebook/dp/B093JTMWS6/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=cuckoo+anthology&qid=1619721909&sr=8-1

… and in case you missed it, here’s a link to our previous anthology:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07QMMZ2LT/ref=series_dp_rw_ca_1

May 2nd… and our April review

Welcome to our April review. It’s over a year since our world and our lives changed so dramatically, and for many so disastrously. Here in the UK we are seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel, and we hope wherever you live the same is or will soon be true for you too. However, we aren’t forgetting those parts of the world where the situation is extremely serious and challenging, and we send our thoughts and hopes for change and improvement to everyone in those stricken places. Maybe our writing, and yours too, has been a support to you, and we send wishes that in the months ahead it will continue. We hope that you, your family and friends are safe and well, and offer our sincere thoughts to any of you who have been affected in any way whatsoever.

First of all…

The beginning of the year is often a quiet time, but now as the world opens we have been busy but carefully rejoining life as it should be. In our different ways this new life has been demanding and have not been as hot on writing which we regret has somewhat taken a back seat. However, as the days become longer and positive thoughts and feelings are springing like the seasonal flowers, maybe our thoughts will burst into leaf this coming month.

So, a few stats: in April we posted 6 stories, poems and other pieces which received 543 views, had 424 lovely visitors, 18 likes and 3 comments from 35 different countries.  As ever, it is really great and much appreciated, thank you very much to you all across the world! To all our readers, world-wide, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome to all our new friends.

The blog

We continue our busy 2021 writing activities, especially now when going out is not always an option; we may not roam outside, but we can roam in our imaginations! We continue to share our concerns about global issues and especially climate warming and the effects the way we live our lives impacts on our world. The situation home and abroad might be brightening, but the advice remains the same – you know what you have to do in your own country wherever you are, so do the right thing, protect yourselves, protect your family and friends, help the world to heal.

On a positive note, we welcome any contributions to our blog, especially now, from anyone who would like to write articles, stories or poems about anything! We love to share others writing of all sorts! Please send us any stories, poems, articles which we can share here – copyrighted to you and with full credits to you and links to your places!

News

Lois’s news:

Lois has busy with her next and as yet untitled Radwinter story, number eight in the series. She has also set herself a new challenge, which appears on her own blog, https://loiselsden.com/2021/05/01/100/ . On the occasion of the late Captain Sir Tom Moore’s birthday, a hundred day challenge has been announced. Ordinary folk have been challenged to do a hundred of a thing over a hundred days, and to be sponsored or donate to the Captain Tom Foundation. So what will Lois do? She will attempt to write a hundred word blog each day for a hundred days! She will update us next review when she will be thirty-one days into the challenge.

Richard’s news:

As ever, Richard continues to busily pursue a variety of different writing projects, – and just to remind you all, his latest book, An Arctic Adventure is available now; it chronicles his adventures in Greenland and Iceland. Go to his Richard Kefford Amazon page where you will find it and his other books! Richard is polishing up his magnifying lens and geologist’s hammer, waterproofing his boots and refolding his maps ready for some rocky adventures. He hopes to be out with his geology group on walks, rambles and adventures, and no doubt will share them here.

Other dragon news:

John, Lois and Richard belong to a writing group who are now pulling together stories, poems and other pieces to make a collection for an anthology. Early days, but we will bring you news and more details as it becomes available. The working title is Pendemic: 5 writers in lockdown.

Dragon publications

All our published work is available on Amazon, search for Gillian Peall, John Watts, Richard Kefford, and Lois Elsden.

Just a reminder that our friend historian and blogger, Andrew Simpson, who shares many of the stories from his own blog, is writing some very interesting articles not only addressing the difficulties of our times, but how ordinary people, just like us, coped in the past. You can find his blog https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/ ; his published books are available on Amazon.

A further reminder, our friend Ann Bancroft also has a book available on Amazon, an account of her spiritual journey.

Until the end of next month, au revoir! Keep following our blog!!

Stuff

Nāgārjuna

Nāgārjuna was an Indian Mahāyāna Buddhist thinker and philosopher who lived around 200 CE. He is one of the greatest thinkers in Asian philosophy. His Mūlamadhyamakakārikā ( MHK ) book on the Middle Way is the most important text on the Madhyamaka philosophy of emptiness. It is still studied today.

His thought was that everything ends in emptiness. Nothing exists on its own. An object needs an observer for it to exist – even in the two sphere view of the Universe and even more so in the three sphere view.

Dante

In Dante’s time – born 1265 in Florence, God was seen as a pinpoint of light outside the universe – surrounded by nine angels. How can you have something outside the Universe? Dante said that everything in heaven and hell was inside the Universe – encased in the two spheres. God existed in the three sphere universe. Imagine you cut the Earth in half around the equator and then turn the two haves to face you. You would see two equators and if you set off from any point on the equator, you would eventually end up where you started. This was the original proof that the Earth was round. If you then created another sphere, it would have to be outside the Earth whatever shape it was – within this space or sphere resided God with her angels. The most favoured shape for the ‘third sphere’ at the moment is a doughnut.

Einstein

Einstein came along with his special theory of relativity showing that among other things that the speed of light was fixed and non relative.

Lemaitre

A catholic priest from Belgium, Father Lemaitre, then worked on the special theory and changed it a little .

Einstein

Einstein saw this and realised he could prove his general theory of relativity which included the proof that the Earth was round and gravity was just a warping of space time thus proving Newton nearly right and Maxwell completely so.

Heisenberg

Heisenberg worked on Neils Bohr’s incomplete equations and what he regarded as Einsteins incorrect view until he came up with an idea that changed the world. He had glimpsed “a strangely beautiful interior”. The rest of the gang, Pauli, Mach, Dirac, Born, all went over his results and reluctantly had to agree with him. Bohr came around, reluctantly, eventually – Einstein never did. What he had done was show that the position and velocity of a particle – say an electron – was only a probability. If one particle exists by probability, then every other particle in the universe does the same. The next step is to see that a particle does not exist until it reacts to something else, A particle cannot exist on its own. This is the outcome of the miss-named ‘Observer effect.

The next step was to prove this in a lab by experiment. I will not bore you with the details but it proved to be so – every time. It all starts from the two slit experiment – which is impossible by common sense. This science is called quantum mechanics. I don’t understand it, I’m glad to say because Richard Feynman said, “ if you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don’t.” This science has gone through many changes and iterations since Heisenberg’s discovery in the 1920s. This has included but is not limited to: The Mutiverse, Brane theory, String theory, and, at the moment Carlo Rovelli is working on Quantum Gravity and Reactive Quanta which includes all Heisenberg’s equations.

He started from the basics of Nāgārjuna’s work all those centuries ago. If an electron only exists through probability – how can you know it is there? You need a detector so the logic is that electron does not exist until a detector looks for it. Therefore a particle cannot exist on its own. This is called entanglement or “spooky action at a distance”, or “God does not play dice”. Both sayings are attributed to an unconvinced Einstein.

But quantum entanglement has been proven to work over vast distances – light years in fact.

The latest news on this is that CERN have just discovered a new to science particle that carries a fifth force  – which changes most of the theories listed above. So now we have a whole new science to play with.

Pandemic of 2020/2021

Have you noticed a theme running through these notes.? ”Things do not exist until there are two of them to react with each other.” – or maybe three according to some particle physicists.

Isn’t it strange that the same thing sort of applies to humans – they are not happy on their own and tend to wither and die in very extreme cases of loneliness. 

Was Nāgārjuna on the right track over 2,000  years ago? Did Dante have the right idea? Without the priest Lemaitre, would Einsten have gone even further wrong?  Do we owe the modern world to Heisenberg? No modern electronics could work without Quantum Theory – no, not even your mobile or iPad. No one understands it but it works.

The journey to present day thinking has needed science, philosophy and religion.

What will Carlo Rovelli and his colleagues go on to discover and understand?

Isn’t all this a wonderful world and it is all probably made of stuff we have never  seen and probably never will.’

Just as an oyster needs a dirty, piece of grit to create a beautiful, nacreous pearl so the human race may need the evil nonsense that is religion to bring forth the wondrous beauty that is the scientific view of the universe.

© Richard Kefford 2021

I wonder…

Do you ever wake up at night and start to wonder about all the things you don’t know, or perhaps the things that you do know because some expert has told you so but you are not sure if you believe it and you have no way of checking? Or, even worse, have you told one of your grandchildren something in answer to one of their wonderful ‘why’ questions that you only know to be true because someone told you or you read it somewhere in a book?

If you add up all the knowledge that you have accumulated during your life, how much do you really know to be true? Perhaps your life is all based on the lies you have been told?

How can you solve this problem? How can you go back to first principles and work it out for your self?

Say you have your suspicions about things you have been told by experts about things in physics, no, perhaps astro physics would be better? So you start with simple physics and read everything you can get your hands on . You get to know more and then you find out that there is always more. The more that is discovered, the more there is to find out. One single physicist cannot know it all so they specialise in one area. This means that they work in their own little silos as they become more specialised so that they end up being unable to talk to each other. You in the meantime have spent some 30 years learning about astro physics. This means that you will know nothing about rocket science because you have been too busy turning yourself into an astrophysicist.

So, one sunny summer afternoon  your oldest granddaughter, Phoenicia, comes along when you are having a nap in the garden and asks you. ‘Granddad, granddad,’ tugging on your sleeve.

‘Yes,’ you reluctantly answer.

‘You know when they discovered gravity waves with the LIGO instrument in 2015?’

‘Err, yes.’

‘The instrument said that the waves came from two black holes colliding 1.3 billion years ago.’

‘Err, err yes, I think so.’

‘So to know that you must know the distance the source is away and the speed of gravity waves, right? So how did they know the distance to the source assuming the waves travel at the speed of light or how did they know that the event happened 1.3 billion years ago?

‘I don’t know the answer to that Phony. That is not quite in my speciality.’ 

‘Does that mean you have wasted the last 30 years, Granddad?’

‘Looks like it my love. But I will try and find the answer for you.’

‘Thanks Granddad.’ She skipped off, the question forgotten, she had been watching a butterfly and was wondering how it managed to fly. She knew it was a waste of time asking her Granddad because he wouldn’t know, it wasn’t his speciality

‘Mum,’ she called…

*****

Granddad was now wide awake, no chance of sleeping when his granddaughter was around! He would much rather chat to her than sleep though, so he was now determined to find out the answer to her question. He would do.it by extrapolating the knowledge he had gained from studying astro physics.

*****

‘Granddad.’ 

‘Yes Phony.’

‘Mummy said you have worked out the answer to my question about how they know when the two black holes collided. Do you really know or are you just teasing me?’

‘I really do know as I have worked it out from the knowledge I already have. If you are ready to listen, I’ll start. OK?’

‘Yes, OK Granddad.’

‘Gravity waves have energy but no mass and so they must travel at the speed of light because they follow Einstein’s General theory of relativity. If they followed Newton’s theory of gravity then they would move at almost infinite speed, which is obviously impossible.”

Now we come to measuring how far away the two colliding black holes are away from Earth.

You cannot see a black hole as light cannot escape from it but you can see it by the effect it has on the nearby stars or galaxies. Then you measure the distance to that star by measuring how much that star appears to move as the Earth moves around the sun. The position of the start is measured say in July and then in January. A nearby object (s) such as the Pleides are then used as the apex of the triangle. It is then simple trigonometry to work out the distance to the star and hence the black holes. Now we know the distance to the black holes, we also know the ‘light’ is travelling towards us at the speed of light so then it is easy to calculate the time taken. This is call the Stellar Parallax method. Did you understand that Phoney?’

‘Yes, Granddad, of course, it was quite simple. But I do have a question.”

‘Go on then, ask away.’

‘When you were at school, was the Dead Sea still alive?’

‘I think that’s the first sensible question you have asked all day,’ chortled Granddad. ‘Is it time for a cup of tea yet?’

*****

He sipped his cup of tea and wondered if he had done the right thing by becoming a specialist who knew a lot about very little or would it have been better to be a generalist who knew a little about a lot. As a generalist, he could always find a specialist to answer any questions he may have. 

As he enjoyed the warming sun he slowly slipped into a doze, he still hadn’t decided what was best to suggest to Phoenicia as she moved through her education.

© R Kefford 2021

About books we’re reading

Lois has been thinking about reading, and about writing:

I was talking to a friend this afternoon, socially distanced of course, and we were talking about books we’re reading at the moment. I’m reading ‘We Are Bellingcat’ by Eliot Higgins, an absolutely fascinating book, shocking and horrifying because it’s the story of how news is distorted and manipulated. This is the Amazon blurb:

How did a collective of self-taught internet sleuths end up solving some of the biggest crimes of our time?
Bellingcat, the home-grown investigative unit, is redefining the way we think about news, politics and the digital future. Here, their founder – a high-school dropout on a kitchen laptop – tells the story of how they created a whole new category of information-gathering, galvanising citizen journalists across the globe to expose war crimes and pick apart disinformation, using just their computers. From the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 over the Ukraine to the sourcing of weapons in the Syrian Civil War and the identification of the Salisbury poisoners, We Are Bellingcat digs deep into some of Bellingcat’s most successful investigations. It explores the most cutting-edge tools for analysing data, from virtual-reality software that can build photorealistic 3D models of a crime scene, to apps that can identify exactly what time of day a photograph was taken. In our age of uncertain truths, Bellingcat is what the world needs right now – an intelligence agency by the people, for the people.

I really recommend it – it may sound tricky or complicated but it is so well written, written in a plain way to tell the true story and to make it intelligible to someone like me who has very little knowledge of many of the things Eliot Higgins is telling us about.

This may not seem connected, but here is something I wrote a couple of years ago about Stephen King who is one of my friend’s favourite authors, and she mentioned him as we we enjoyed a cup of tea this afternoon:

May 19th 2019: I saw a quote the other day from Stephen King the great American writer. Stephen was born to a very ordinary family in 1947; his dad was a sailor who abandoned the family when Stephen was only two and Stephen later changed his name to King. He was brought up in quite straightened circumstances with his mother working hard to look after her two children, and later her own parents in their old age. So he had no particular privileges, no-one to support him with financial aid, helpful contacts, or influence… just an ordinary boy, teenager, young man who became a writer… just like any child, teenager, young person might be able to do. His sold his first story when he was twenty, and kept writing and selling stories while he was trying to find a position as a teacher. He became a teacher (like so many of us) and began submitting his short stories and beginning to write novels. His fourth novel was Carrie… the first of his novels to be published…

I haven’t read many of his novels, they are not a genre I’m a particular fan of, but the books I have read are so gripping, the characters so believable, the situations so horribly imaginable. What strikes me is that he is an ordinary person with an extraordinary talent, and great determination and writing stamina. In many ways – although he had early and deserved success, he really is no different from most people. He’s written a great deal about writing, and is full of common sense and practical ideas on how to write better.

So what was the quote I saw?

 Say what you mean. Say what you see. Make a photograph, if you can, for the reader. 

My featured image is of a photo… a mystery photo… my grandma on the left, my aunty on the right, and the mysterious Mrs hart in the middle… I have tried my best to find out who she was… I’ll have to write a story explaining who she might have been!

***

Say what you mean – Eliot Higgins writing about Bellingcat says exactly what he means, and he says exactly what he saw.

An addictive read, but…

Lois is still busy reading:

It doesn’t seem more than a few days ago that I was writing about what makes a good book. The fairly obvious reason that I was writing it was that I was tearing through a really good book, hardly able to drag myself out of it, and when forced to do so, would sneak back to read the next part. Much as I love real actual books made of paper, in general they are more expensive, and they do take up a lot of room. I’m desperately trying to shed stuff, stuff of all sorts, some even precious stuff, and that includes books I’ve read once and know I’ll never read again. Yes, I know it’s lovely to have shelves and shelves of books, all sitting there on their shelves, but we just haven’t the room. At some point we will have to downsize, and having such clear memories of helping someone move to a smaller place in a hurry and all the things which were randomly cast off because we hadn’t time or space to do anything more, I want our exit from here to the next abode, whenever that is, to be less rushed and more planned.. This has strayed away from the point I was making about reading; most books I now buy are eBooks, which means they are accessible everywhere! on my phone, on this computer, on my iPad as well as my eReader!

Back to what I was originally going to comment on, the good book I was addictively reading. It was Scrublands by Chris Hammer; set in Australia, the main character is an experienced war journalist who after a particularly traumatic experience, is sent to the middle of nowhere to a small outback town a year after a horrific mass shooting. His brief is to report on how such a small community comes to terms with something like that… but of course he ends up investigating why it happened and the complex lives and history of the inhabitants. It is a brilliantly written book, wonderfully descriptive but the descriptions of the setting and surrounding area doesn’t detract but enhances the narrative. The characters are weird and eccentric and in some ways repulsive, but realistic all the same. The plotlines were complex and did need careful reading but did completely hang together even though it was farfetched.

Having read that, I bought the next in the series – I am one of those readers who if I like a book, need to read the rest by the author, especially with the same characters. Chris Hammer’s sequel/follow on is ‘Silver’ in which the same main character, the journalist features; this time it follows his personal story, moving back to the small seaside town where he was born and grew up – although of course things, beginning with the murder of his childhood chum, lead him back to his journalistic life. In this story his personal relationships, and his investigation of his own past run parallel to his investigation into his friend’s murder and dodgy doings at a nearby spiritual retreat centre. I enjoyed it, and found it just as addictive to read, but somehow I began to lose my engagement with the main character. I know in fiction characters do unrealistic, unbelievable and sometimes plain silly things for the sake of the plot, but my suspended disbelief faltered. I could not believe a man of his age and experience would do some of the things he did – and that kept intruding as I raced through it. It was good, very good, but I would rate it less good than the first.

Nothing daunted, I have ordered the third in the series, ‘Trust’. I will report back!